Death of French glaciologist and climatology pioneer Claude Lorius

French glaciologist Claude Lorius at the Cannes Film Festival in 2015. © BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP

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Claude Lorius was 91 years old and was the first to highlight the role of CO2 in global warming. In 2008, he was awarded the Blue Planet Prize, a kind of Nobel Prize for the environment. In 2015, he came to the Cannes Film Festival to present Luc Jacquet's film "Ice and Sky" dedicated to his career.


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It was in 1965, in Adélie Land in Antarctica, while drinking a whisky in which the ice cube is a piece of the ice cap, Claude Lorius noticed the air bubbles escaping from it. This is where the CNRS researcher had the idea of analyzing the air contained in the ice.

It will take a good twenty years to get scientific answers. As early as the 1970s, he began to suspect the role of human activities in global warming. In the midst of the Cold War, thanks to an extraordinary power of persuasion, he managed to work with the Americans and the Soviets.

In 1977-1978, after three years of scouting and ten years of preparation, he and his team began drilling deep into Dome C (southeast Antarctica), allowing them to trace 40,000 years of climate history. In 1984, a mission to the Russian base of Vostok (1,500 km inside Antarctica) allowed him to go up ice 150,000 years.

He can thus reconstruct a complete climate cycle and notes that temperature curves follow regular rhythms, before racing at the same time as those of CO2 since the mid-nineteenth century and the Industrial Revolution. In other words, the more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the higher the temperatures. These results were published in the journal Nature in 1984.

Fight against global warming

It was these discoveries that contributed to the awareness of global warming and the launch of the IPCC, the panel of climate experts in 1988. The researcher will then work to mobilize for the fight against global warming.

Claude Lorius said he was more adventurous than scientific. He led 22 polar expeditions to Greenland, but mostly to Antarctica. From these often extreme experiences, he retained that solidarity is the only way out of vital difficulties. In 2002, he received the CNRS Gold Medal with his colleague and friend Jean Jouzel.

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  • Environment
  • France
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